When a client first goes to a hypnotherapy appointment, the main reason why they are there is to receive help with a problem or issue that they would like to resolve. The very first hypnotherapy consultation is important for therapists to use this time to understand the client’s needs and make sure they have the best plan of action to help the client achieve their goal. In this essay I will discuss what is to be expected in an initial consultation appointment and the ethical elements the therapist will have to cover to ensure the first consultation (and possible subsequent consultations) are successful.
When a client first enters into a therapy room, it is the role of the therapist to build a picture as to why they are there. One of the best ways to get an insight to the client’s initial problem is by asking them to fill in an initial consultation notation form on arrival. This will help to start establishing the client’s case history. The initial consultation form should have the basics, for example, the form would ask the client to state full name, contact details, date of birth, any medical history or medication they are currently taking.
Current employment status should also be included. The form would also ask what problem the client would like to receive help in resolving, how long the problem has persisted for and also possibly ask what ways the client has tried to resolve the problem in the past. For a Therapist to have this basic information in front of them in the initial consultation is important as it will form the basis for further specific questioning throughout the session. For Hypnotherapy to work successfully on a client, it would help for the client to be as relaxed.
This may start off to be a bit difficult in the first session as the client may be nervous about being there to discuss the problem or even have some concerns about hypnosis itself. This would be a good time for both the client and the therapist to discuss any concerns they may have and also be a good opportunity for the therapist to explain how hypnosis works. As mentioned in our required reading, ‘At the same time, it is also necessary to educate your client about hypnosis. The more the client understands, the more confidence he will have in the hypnotic process .
By reassuring your client of his safety, he will be receptive to a good working relationship’ (1) At this stage of the initial consultation, it would also be good to mention a little something about the therapist’s background. This could include the therapists training, how they are a member of an accredited hypnosis society and even how many years they have been practising hypnotherapy. This will be good for the client to hear that they are dealing with a trained and confident hypnotherapist and will be a vital factor when establishing the all- important rapport between client and therapist.
Rapport is especially important in the first consultation as it’s about establishing mutual trust and confidence. It is essential that the client (and the therapist) have this so they can start to create an effective working relationship. As mentioned in our reading material: ‘If a professional engages in the practice of hypnosis with a high degree of reservation and suspicion about the value of hypnotic treatment, he will not project a positive attitude or be able to function with true conviction.
Regardless of whether the hypnotherapist has either too much confidence or too little, the relations with the client will be weak – possibly even doomed before it begins. ’ (2) This is why it is so important to have a high level of trust and rapport between client and therapist. But the process of building rapport is a two-way street, as not only does the client need to have confidence in the therapist, the hypnotherapist also needs to feel confident that the client is there for the right reasons (i. e. coming to a stop smoking therapy session because the client wants to be there – not because the clients partner wants them to go).
This is why it is important for both the client and the therapist to be open and honest with each other from the very start when discussing the initial problems/issues. In these beginning stages of the therapy session, it could be an opportunity before asking any specific problem-related questions with the client, to discuss confidentiality. The therapist may need to take notes in the initial consultation and will need to advise the client that any notes taken will be confidential.
These notes could be important in helping the therapist recall information and it would be helpful to include some finer points (of any notes made) into the initial screed to make the hypnotherapy session more personalised. (i. e. Grandmother wants to stop smoking and says she wants to stop for her grandkids – this could be used in the screeds as a powerful suggestive tool).
This time could also be used to advise the client how many sessions approximately the client will have to do for achieving the goal (or problem) the client has originally seen them for (i. e. a weight loss session may require more than one consultation. It can also be an opportunity to advise the client of any free consultations the therapist is prepared to give. ) In this first session, and using the initial consultation notation form that the client has filled in previously as a base, the therapist will now begin to ask more specific questions relating to the client’s problem. This will give the therapist a chance to explore the client’s personal history further and to see if the client is in fact suitable for hypnotherapy.
(e. g. Specific questions could refer to family and medical history. What medication is the client currently on? Have they been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past or currently? ) These are very important factors to consider before administering therapy on any clients. As quoted in our reference reading: ‘hence it follows that when hypnotically mediated treatment for a condition outside the professional competence of the therapist is carried out at the request or with the consent of a competent practitioner’ (3).
Not only would it be in the client’s best interest to get a doctor certificate, it would also protect both the clients and the therapist’s integrity professionally. Once a picture has been painted about the initial problem (or issue), the therapist can then assess the best way to go about addressing the problem, and to establish which techniques to use to achieve the best results. ‘an effective hypnotherapist will; – 2.
Have the ability to identify problem areas, asses their severity, and determine the type and scope of the induction that is to be used for treatment’ (4) The therapist asks these questions to understand the client’s perspective on the problem (or issue) at hand. When it is time to do hypnotherapy, the therapist can speak in a language which makes the client feel he (or she) is understood. E. g. what style of suggestion will best suit the client and their personality? If the initial consultation notation form states they work for an army base, the client will respect authority, so therefore a direct approach maybe the best method.
If the client is a bit of a rebel who rejects authority, than a more gentle and indirect suggestion would be the best course of action. The therapist could also use this time to establish which modalities to use in the therapy screed (i. e. is the client more visual or auditory? Or should all five of the modalities be compounded in the screed to get the best effect? These methods and techniques are used to help the therapist tune into the client’s wavelength and tailor the best approach for the client to achieve their desired results.
‘It is not only the initial diagnosis that is important to ensure that treatment is appropriate, but continuous monitoring with appropriate knowledge and diagnostic skills must be maintained if the treatment applied is to avoid error’ (5) During this initial consultation, and throughout any subsequent hypnotherapy consultations, it is imperative for the therapist to provide a good standard of practice and care for their clients. There may be times when a client has divulged information about themselves that calls into question the therapist confidentiality clause.
There are exceptions to the confidentiality rule (i. e. any reports of abuse or illegal activities) which may have to be reported to the authorities. An ethical therapist may also have to make a decision about what is the best treatment for the client, and sometimes the best treatment may be no hypnotherapy treatment at all. It is important for the therapist to determine if hypnotherapy treatment is safe to use on some clients, in particular, any clients that have had psychosis episodes in the past or are on any medication that helps the client to deal with their psychosis.
It is at this stage it would be best to refer the client on to their GP, as any hypnotherapist would not have the skills to help them further, and could very well put the reputation and the health and safety of the client and therapist at risk (6) Finally, if there is any reason for a therapist to doubt if any action they have undertaken may be unethical – they can always refer to their Society Code of Ethics (or the Secretary at the society) for further confirmation. (7) Conclusion: In this essay we have discussed the outline of the initial hypnotherapy consultation and why it is important.
We took a look at the first main step of any therapy consultation process – and that is to find out what the initial problem is. Once the therapist fully understands, he (or she) can proceed with the best course of action to help the client achieve their goal. To make sure the therapist does understand, we decided it may be helpful for the client to fill in an initial consultation notation form, which could be used as a base for all future questions. We also talked about how the client may feel walking into a hypnotherapy session for the
first time, and how this initial consultation would be the best time to raise any concerns or fears that the client has and to also explain how hypnosis works. We thought it would be a good idea in this first hypnotherapy consultation to give a bit of background about the therapist himself (or herself) so the client knows they are getting help from a trained and competent therapist. We discussed the importance of building rapport between the client and the therapist in the first session and how mutual trust, respect and openness was needed on both sides to create a successful therapy session.
Another important factor we looked at was the role of Confidentiality. The therapist may need to take notes in the first part of the session and will need to let the client be reassured that the notes will be for the therapy sessions between them only. During this initial consultation it would be a good idea to discuss how many sessions may be needed and also look to see if the therapist is willing to offer any sessions for free. We discussed the importance of the therapist using this time to ask specific questions.
These questions will help the therapist build the bigger picture and help him (or her) decide which are the best techniques to use for the client to achieve their goal. We also had a look at some of the ethical factors a therapist may face. We discussed when a therapist would think about breaching the confidentiality clause, and also to distinguish whether a client would be suitable for hypnotherapy or not. For these reasons, the effectiveness of any hypnotherapy treatment heavily relies on the information, insight, rapport and openness of the initial consultation.
- Hypnosis for Change: Third Edition, Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher, Chapter 21, pg275-276
- Hypnosis for Change – Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher, Chapter 21, pg 273
- Hypnotherapy: a handbook, Michael Heap and Windy Dryden, Chapter 11, pg 189
- Hypnosis for Change – Josie Hadley and Carol Staudacher , Chapter 21, pg273-274
- Hypnotherapy: a handbook, Michael Heap and Windy Dryden, Chapter 11, pg 188
- Course Notes – Module Two – Hypnosis and Mental Health, Pages 22-26
- Course Notes – Code of Ethics – The Hypnotherapy Society (email: [email protected] com)